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Aboriginal Education: The Burden of History


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Aboriginal Education: The Burden of History

  2. 2. History of education for Aboriginal people in Canada  The past: Pre-contact with settlers  Indians had their own form of education  The community itself was a classroom  The teachers were the adults members of the community  Each adult was responsible to ensure that every child learn to live a good live ((National Indian Brotherhood, 1973)
  3. 3. The past: Pre-contact with settlers  "The Redman has the most spiritual civilization the world has ever known.... His measure of success is 'How much service have I rendered to my people?' . . . His mode of life, his thought, his every act are given spiritual significance (Seton & Seton, 1977)“  Then came the change….
  4. 4. The past: Contact during colonial domination  Early 17th century – European missionaries establish schools for Indians  Goals:   Teach native people to read English so they could read the Bible Convert Natives to Christianity  Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian Churches involved
  5. 5. Challenges faced by Church and Government  Aboriginal people were unable to adapt to modern Canadian society  Without intervention, native people would be left behind  Children were easier to mold than adults  Children must be removed from family/cultural influence
  6. 6. Challenges faced by Church and Government  A government inspector stated in the mid 1800s:  Little can be done with him (the Indian child). He can be taught to do a little farming, and at stock raising, and to dress in a more civilized manner, but that is all. The child who goes to a day school learns little while his tastes are fashioned at home, and his inherited aversion to toil is in no way combatted. (Indian Affairs Branch, 18791880)  The solution to these challenges were residential schools far away from parents and influences of reserve.
  7. 7. Residential schools  1890 -1950’s – Parents had no choice but to send     children to a residential school. Many parents wanted this schooling as they thought it is best for their children’s future. All Aboriginal people – wards of the state. The government created the Department of Indian Affairs, which gave responsibility for the schools to the Anglican and Catholic Church in Canada. “Indian Agents” (white men) – employed by Dept. of Indian Affairs recruited students and ensured native students went to school.
  8. 8. Gordon Anglican Residential School
  9. 9. Canadian Indian Residential Schools Statistics  Total Indian Residential Schools – 135  None in NB, PE or NL  AB – 29 BC – 28 SK – 20  ON – 18 MB – 17 NT – 8  QC – 6 YT – 6 NU – 2 NS – 1  Department of Indian Affairs funded all residential schools.
  10. 10. Where were these schools located?
  11. 11. Who exactly went to these schools? •Every Aboriginal child between the ages of 5 to 15 years old. •Over the decades, thousands of Aboriginal children across Canada [First Nation, Métis and Inuit] passed through these schools.
  12. 12. Thomas Moore before and after his entrance into the Regina Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan in 1874.
  13. 13. What did the children do there?  A typical school day:  Half time in class study  Half time leaning a trade  Girls – ironing, sewing, cooking and domestic skills  Boys – blacksmithing, carpentry, and auto mechanics  Added duties: milk cows, clean dorms, chop wood (provide labour to run schools cheaper)
  14. 14. What did the children do there?
  15. 15. Punishments at residential schools  For failing a test - no food for a day;  For not working hard enough - 4 hours of extra work (in school or garden);  For disobedience, and rude or disorderly conduct - no food or water for a day, a beating (with a stick on the back), extra garden work;  For speaking native language - (first offence) no supper - (second offence) no supper and beating - (third offence) considered disobedience and punished as such;
  16. 16. Impact of Residential Schools  Children were removed from their loved ones and      uprooted from their culture Forced assimilation of white societal cultures, values, religion and languages Some children subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse Devastation of families and cultures High mortality rate while attending schools from tuberculosis, smallpox and possibly loneliness About 50% of students did not derive any benefits from the education they received.
  17. 17. Two Sides of the Story "Figure it this way, over sixty thousand natives were processed through those schools since they started, and you got generation on generation just piled on top and now we're trying to figure out, "What is love?" How in the hell are you supposed to know how to f---in' love when you're not given love for ten months out of every year? The question is not, "Why do we drink?" Ask first the question, "Do you know how to love?" And you'll find a very thin line between them because they come from each other. You booze because you can't love and you booze under the guise of pretending that you can."
  18. 18. Milestones in Education for Aboriginal people  1950s – Federally run day schools on reserves to     accommodate closure of residential schools. Policy of integration in public schools (residential schools converted into student residences and Aboriginal students attended nearest public schools) 60% aboriginal students attending public schools by 1970s Problems of alienation in public schools In 1960s, Aboriginal leaders voice out deplorable conditions of their people
  19. 19. Milestones in Education for Aboriginal people  1969 – Government issued a white paper on Indian policy and eliminates the special status of Indians.  Provincial/territorial Indian organizations released the red paper  Voiced their discontent regarding education, housing, health and socio-economic status.  1973 – Indian Control of Indian Education  Parental responsibility and local control  Government obligated to fund education for Aboriginals.
  20. 20. References  Kirkness, Verna, J. (1999). Aboriginal Education in Canada: A retrospective and a prospective. Journal of American Indian Education, 39(1). Retrieved from  Where are the Children? ml  Smith, Gail. Indian Residential Schools, Part 1 – The Report[powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from